Lunar: The Silver Star - Reader Retroview  

Can’t Quite Clear the Stratosphere
by JuMeSyn

Not high
18-25 hours


Rating definitions 

   The early 90’s were a time when RPGs had not attained anything close to a mass audience in North America. As the titles were not expected to make much money, many developers did a slipshod localization job if they bothered to bring RPGs across the Pacific at all. Working Designs was an exception to this rule, however. Moving on from the Turbo-CD to the Sega CD in 1993 found them producing a highly readable and frequently quite amusing version of Lunar: The Silver Star for those elusive few in possession of the Sega CD hardware. Easily-flowing prose does not make for a superlative title, however.

   Lunar: The Silver Star was developed by GameArts in 1992, and many facets of the title show its age. One prime offender is the inability to determine what an item the player is pondering purchasing will do from the shop window. Weapons and armor do not have their statistic effects displayed until actually purchased, which can lead to quite a bit of guesswork. Items similarly do not have their effects displayed even once the player possesses them, forcing an inordinate amount of short-term memory to be devoted to the task of recalling what items do (the manual does include some item effects, making players without one the poorer). Lunar: TSS also has a system wherein each character can hold a strictly limited number of items at any one time, and these items include equipped items. Particularly early on, this limitation on item holding can prove problematic. The balance of items is held by Nall (a flying cat-like being who proves quite talkative in battle), who also has a limit on storage. At least outside of item management finds battles easy to navigate….

Snails: why did it have to be snails? Snails: why did it have to be snails?

   Lunar: TSS has a battle system that manages some variants on the standard turn-based formula. Battles are indeed turn-based, and magic works exactly as an RPGamer would expect it to. On the other hand, physical attacks are affected by distance. The battles find the characters on the battlefield with their opponents, and physical attacks must be adjacent to the opponents to connect. Each character has a move distance, and if the character cannot cover the distance in that round then only the movement will happen. Characters frequently attack twice or thrice in a battle, and stronger hits tend to knock the enemy back – requiring further movement to catch up with the enemy’s new position. There is also an option in battle called ‘Flee,’ which is not synonymous with ‘Run;’ it makes a character run around the battlefield trying his/her best to avoid the enemies. Beyond these quirks, and the aforementioned item limitations in battle, Lunar: TSS does not bring anything truly noteworthy to its battles. It WAS made in 1992, so its innovations along this path are appreciated.

   Of special note in relation to the battles is the increasing irrelevance of certain characters in the party late in the game. Nash and Mia increasingly lack any high-powered abilities to keep pace with what Alex, Kyle and Jessica are capable of bringing to a fight. This makes both of them more dead weight than worthy party members in the endgame.

   Alex is a young man in the village of Burg, dreaming of adventure. His hero is DragonMaster Dyne, the hero of Lunar years before as leader of the Four Heroes charged with defeating the mad Black Dragon; and a man who gave his life to the cause. Alex dreams of becoming a DragonMaster himself, the warrior who fights in the name of the goddess Althena who created the world of Lunar. Until he can do that, however, he is rather content to spend time with his friends in Burg – Luna and Ramus. Ramus is the son of the village chief and has a desire to acquire wealth and comfort; Luna lives in the same house as Alex after Alex’s parents adopted her as a baby. She and Alex have a certain bond that is implicitly acknowledged by everyone in Burg. Alex also has an atypical companion in the form of Nall, who looks rather like a flying white cat. The quest begins when Ramus comes to Alex for help in acquiring a valuable gem from Quark, the White Dragon that lives in proximity to Burg….

This is called a ‘still.’  For this to be animated many stills must be combined together in sequential motion. This is called a ‘still.’ For this to be animated many stills must be combined together in sequential motion.

   Certainly for 1992 Lunar: TSS has a worthy and compelling tale to tell. The story shifts around quite a few times, and never becomes boring. Working Designs infuses this tale with their trademarks of humor and well flowing text, aiding the story greatly. The only negative associated with TSS is that its story was subsequently rewritten quite a bit by GameArts in their remakes of the game on Saturn and PlayStation (then again in the GBA title Lunar Legend). As this is the first attempt to write this tale, it comes across less grandly than in the reworking it would receive.

   Visuals are acceptable for the Sega CD in 1992, but not exemplary. The characters are all somewhat squashed-looking sprites inside battle and outside. Spell effects are not ugly but fail to achieve anything truly memorable. Musically this is one of Noriyuke Iwadare’s earlier compositions, and most of the compositions are pretty good. Some are quite memorable. The balance is not, and this soundtrack is not one of Iwadare’s best. Voice acting is present in the infrequent full motion video segments, and especially when one considers the time at which Working Designs put it together the acting is pretty good. It doesn’t get much time to imprint itself in the memory, however. For an example of what was considered evolutionary at the time, watch the opening video with its blatant lack of animations and its 80’s refugee theme song.

   Challenge is not entirely absent in Lunar: The Silver Star, but few battles present much threat after the early part of the game. The final battles are pathetically easy, in fact. Completion of this title is also a subject of some disappointment, for it can be cleared in less than 20 hours by a player unwilling to be dissuaded from the main quest. This is an aspect somewhat improved in the later iterations of the story. Replay is nonexistent; only a lover of the story should bother to see it again.

   Lunar: The Silver Star is a fascinating time capsule into a world of RPGs that can never be reacquired. The title has numerous flaws, and these downgrade its ability to be enjoyed to a significant degree. It succeeds in being memorable, to be sure. The Lunar story is one that would be improved upon in the future, however, making the original telling unnecessary save for the curious.

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